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A Nob Hill House Provides a Foundation for Medical Research

benjamin eaton

Germaine and Benjamin Eaton, '42

By Meredith Alexander Kunz, reprinted with permission from Stanford Benefactor

When they moved into a historic townhouse in San Francisco's Nob Hill, Germaine and Benjamin Eaton, '42, knew they had found the perfect home. The four-level house at 843 Mason Street had a rich history: It was designed in 1917 by Willis Polk, the architect for the city's 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Its location was likewise illustrious, right across the street from the famous Mark Hopkins Hotel. Ben and Germaine took full advantage of their elegant residence, entertaining frequently.

After decades of living on Mason Street, the couple made a major decision: to make a bequest of their beloved home to Stanford, Ben's alma mater.

After Ben's death in 2001 and Germaine's passing in 2010, Stanford received the property, then valued at $2.75 million.

The Eatons' bequest now allows the dean of Stanford University School of Medicine to support any field of medical research, a flexible arrangement that magnifies the value of their gift.

When the Eatons' daughter, Carol Eaton-Preston, learned of her parents' bequest, she knew it would be tough letting go of this great house and its memories. But she supported their plan, knowing how strongly they felt about sharing their good fortune with others.

"It was a wonderful gesture, to give something back to the university that gave them so much," Carol said.

The Eaton Fund was used recently to support research by six newly recruited faculty members who are seeking a fundamental understanding of life's big mysteries. Many of medicine's greatest treatment advances have emerged from biomedical innovation research.

The fund is supporting a range of faculty research, including work on how embryos develop; how nutrients cross cell membranes; brain cell connections involved in spatial navigation and memory; the chemistry of life; complex interactions within biological systems; physiology on the molecular and cellular levels; and ways to visualize the behavior of the large molecules that are essential for life in living subjects.

This remarkable range of investigation is only possible because the Eatons made their gift "unrestricted," making it applicable to whatever need or opportunity is of the highest priority. Their foresight means their gift can be used for some of the School of Medicine's most important programs.

To learn more about how your bequest could make a difference at Stanford, please contact the Office of Planned Giving at 650.723.6560 or

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